by Paul Sanders
When you need personal audio, a set of quality headset can provide detailed, powerful sound for your computer system. The spectrum of features available for computer headsets includes options designed for different types of users, although some of the best features apply to nearly everyone.
Surround sound: Sophisticated sound is more of an option on the average computer now that Blu-ray disc drives are a common feature and you can get 5.1 channels from headphones. Usually, you will find gaming headsets provide some of the best 5.1 surround sound because they are built to take advantage of in-game audio, which makes them ideal for listening to digital audio from DVD or Blu-ray movies encoded with surround sound.
Built-in microphone: A decent microphone can improve the quality of your video chat sessions as well as offer at least passing audio for voice recordings. Microphones are almost a necessity for fast-paced games, too. A headset microphone should be comfortably adjustable and possibly even detachable, letting you position it for the best audio without distracting background or breath sounds.
Wireless: Cordless listening is especially convenient if you're using your computer as a home theater PC. Wireless computer headsets will typically use a USB adapter to send and receive signals between the headset and your machine, so you can be across the room or in another room entirely while still receiving crisp sound.
Built-in controls: Volume and mute controls can be conveniently located on a line-in module on the headset cable or on one of the earcups. Accessing these controls is much easier than searching for on-screen volume controls. More advanced features will let you control music and video players as well by giving you options to pause, skip, or fast-forward media.
Hinged earcups: Some headset frames are rigid, allowing very little flex or adjustment to customize the fit to your head. Hinges allow the earcups to flex and angle to the sides of your head for a more comfortable fit that doesn't create pressure points.
USB connection: Regular headphones usually conform to the 3.5 mm standard for their connectors. Computers almost always include these ports, but a USB port allows your headset to communicate with and be powered by your computer, which may open up more advanced options, like built-in amplifiers that do not require batteries.
Cross-compatibility: You may want to be able to use your headset with other devices, like video game consoles. Look for compatibility with your game system of choice as well as multiple connection options for home theater and portable devices.